Most GCSE and A-level exams will be delayed next year, the government has said.
The Department for Education (DfE) has said there will be a change to the ordinary timetable in light of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Students will take most A-levels and GCSEs three weeks later under new plans.
The majority of AS exams will also be affected by the delay.
In a written statement to parliament, Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said the move would “give students more time to prepare and a chance to catch up on education lost due to Covid-19”.
However, the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it was “dismayed” by the announcement.
The general secretary of the union, which claimed last week time was running out for a decision to be made, called it a “very inadequate response to the scale of the challenge which lies ahead” for students taking these exams next year.
“Delaying the start of exams by three weeks is of marginal benefit when compared to the loss of learning from the national lockdown and ongoing disruption,” Geoff Barton said. “There isn’t enough being done to make the exams themselves fairer.”
Students returned school in September for the first time in months. However, some schools have faced partial closures since term started due to coronavirus-related reasons.
A group of leading education unions – including – called for changes to 2021 exams last week, including giving students more choice over which questions to answer.
Mr Williamson said on Monday that AS, A-level and GCSE exams would go ahead next year, with most tests being pushed back by three weeks to give students more time to prepare.
The summer exam series will run from 7 June until 2 July for almost all of these exams, while results will be handed out in the same week in late August.
Some exams – such as one maths and one English GCSE paper – will be scheduled for before May half-term.
Exams were cancelled this year due to coronavirus, with outcry and protests following A-level results day after it emerged tens of thousands of teacher-submitted grades had been marked down in a controversial moderation process.
Days later, a government U-turn meant students could take their teacher-assessed grades if higher than their moderated ones.
“Exams are the fairest way of judging a student’s performance so they will go ahead, underpinned by contingency measures developed in partnership with the sector,” Mr Williamson said on Monday.
He added: “Combined with our £1bn catch-up programme and the changes proposed by Ofqual to free up teaching time, the changes I am announcing today give young people the best chance of being ready for their exams without undermining the value of the qualifications they receive.”
Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, welcomed the delay to next year’s exams, but said it should have been announced earlier.
“The government have finally listened to Labour’s call for exams to be delayed,” she said, “but they could have done this weeks ago to give schools more time to prepare.”
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